“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.” Genesis 35:1 (KJV)
A few days ago, as I began to meditate on Genesis 35:1, it suddenly dawned on me that when God told Jacob to arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, God was, among other things, calling out Jacob on the vows he’d made in Genesis 28:20-22. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”
I realized that some cases of bondage or affliction that people battle in their lives could have been the results of broken vows or promises. I observed that this same Jacob–who had a great encounter with God in Genesis 32:24-28 where God changed his name (identity) and told him, “…as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed”—also had challenges of satanic uncleanness. The victory achieved during that encounter should have been sufficient to move him to the next level of Kingdom operation, yet Israel could not function as long as unfulfilled vows and idolatry were still at work in his life. It is clear that Jacob was compromising his stand with God. Maintaining a righteous life was a struggle for him, because of the retinue of idols, accursed earrings and garments in his household (Genesis 35:2). Where vows are unfulfilled, doors are open to confusion, compromise, and uncleanness (Psalm 97:7).
The good news was that the moment God turned his searchlight on Jacob, this great patriarch responded positively and made quick moves that brought instant deliverances. He commanded his family to put away the strange gods among them and be clean. And as soon as they did, the Bible confirms that “…they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob” (Genesis 35:5). There was instant visitation from heaven to sufficiently protect Jacob and his family. Not only that, God blessed him for the second time and reaffirmed his change of name to Israel.
So what happened between chapters 32 and 35? Jacob was living in uncleanness, burdened with his own unfulfilled promises, and this amounted to rebellion (Psalm 107:11-13). As a result, the gains of “power with God, power with men and prevailing” against the adversary were neither being felt nor seen. There was more of God for him than he was enjoying at that time–yet he felt he had to buy his victory against Esau, rather than allowing God to put him on the path of victory. His cunning old identity rose up in him, and the schemer Jacob appeased his brother with presents while with his own mouth he demoted himself to the level of a servant, contrary to God’s promise (Genesis 32:17-21). Hence God–by way of reprimand–told him, “…I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins” (Genesis 35:11).
Many of us have power with God, but we are limited because of factors that have kept us “bound in affliction and iron” (Psalm 107:10). When you make a vow and don’t fulfill it, it’s a form of rebellion. The warning of God is clear on this matter in Ecclesiastes 5:2: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” As serious as this matter is, many of us either do not understand the seriousness of a vow or choose to disregard it. In my few years in ministry, I have come across believers who have been held in bondage as a result of unfulfilled vows. This is the reason I am doing a series on the power of vows, adapted from my book Fighting Your Way To Victory.
What is a Vow?
“A vow is a solemn pledge or promise earnestly made, to perform a specific act or task; or to behave in a certain morally upright manner.”
This action is born of conviction to do what is right and to be at peace with God. For some, however, it is born of impulsive behavior and isn’t adequately thought through. Whatever the circumstances, when a vow is made, it is automatically binding on the maker. It requires a person higher in grace or authority to break the consequences of a broken vow. Vows can be made by a person and also on his or her behalf; either way they are binding. There are many believers carrying the weight of ancestral vows that they are aware of yet they discount the consequences, and they are paying dearly for it. Examine the stories of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:1-19) and Samson (Judges 16:1-31) to understand both the blessings of keeping–and the dangers of not fulfilling–vows.
Next month, Pastor Ayeni examines in depth the consequences of unfulfilled vows. You can read it here: http://www.mannaexpressonline.com/the-power-of-vows-part-2.
Taiwo Ayeni is president of Rehoboth Bible Ministries, Inc., in Grand Prairie, where he lives with his wife Abidemi and their son and daughter. You may contact him at www.rehobothbministries.org.